A disabled Florida man who lives with his parents was struck by a vehicle
as he rode his bicycle in Venice Florida. The motorist who hit him was
uninsured, so he sued the driver and his uninsured motorist carrier, a
national company, for negligently causing his injuries. The parties were
unable to settle the case, and so it went to trial.
At trial there were several issues that the court needed to rule on before
the jury could make a decision on who was to blame for the accident and
how much the negligent party should pay. One of the main issues, and the
one that made it to the Florida Supreme Court, was whether evidence of
the man’s federal benefits should be admitted.
Whether evidence of a federal medical benefit should be admitted at a trial
for personal injuries is important because a jury might reduce an award
if they think that a person’s medical bills are being paid by someone
else. The primary issue here was evidence of future benefits. When a person
causes an injury, they are not only responsible for the injuries they
caused but also for paying for future costs of treating those injuries.
That is what happened here. The injured victim received the lionshare of
his medical care from the benefits of Medicare and Medicaid. He argued
that the trial court should exclude this evidence, and the court agreed
with him. As a result he won a verdict from the jury for nearly $2 million.
But the Second District Court of Appeals disagreed with the ruling barring
evidence of future federal medical benefits and reversed part of the verdict.
Florida Law on Evidence of Benefits
This area of law can get complicated, but it is also important to victims
of personal injury. Historically,
courts did not allow those who negligently caused an injury to another benefit from the injured person’s medical policies, benefits,
or other sources of income and thereby reduce the amount they had to pay
for their negligence. This was known as the collateral source rule. But
Florida legislators recently modified this rule to prevent victims from
gaining a windfall and receiving benefits from two sources.
This new law, however, did not allow all sources of benefits from being
disclosed. If a victim paid for an insurance policy, for example, a jury
was not allowed to figure in that amount of money since it was the victim
who paid for the benefit of the policy. So the issue in this case was
whether federal benefits should be regarded in the same way, and the Florida
Supreme Court determined that they should.
Now, as a result of this ruling, in personal injury cases a defendant will
not be allowed to introduce evidence of a victim’s future federal
benefits. This will prevent defendants from offsetting any award a jury
would otherwise feel like a victim was entitled to. At
The Pittman Firm we stay up-to-date will all the important legal developments in Florida
personal injury law. If you have been injured in an accident in the Panama
See related blog posts:
Florida Supreme Court: Judicial Dress Code Requirements;
U.S. Supreme Court to Decide Personal Injury Case.